Michael Rota on Pascal’s Wager
Date: June 12th, 2016

Is it a “good bet” to believe in God and Christianity?  In the 17th century, this was a question examined by mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal.  To give us modern insights into Pascal’s Wager, we invite Prof. Michael Rota, a philosopher at St. Thomas University, to examine Pascal’s life, the nature of his famous “gambling” proposition, and his own personal insights into how answers to these questions have changed over time.  Dr. Rota’s previous studies in mathematics and game theory provides him with a unique perspective on this fascinating theological question.  We start by reviewing Blaise Pascal’s life and why he generated this wager.  Tony learns that there was actually several variants of the wager that were never published and that one of them was sewn into Pascal’s coat!  Mike then lays out the basics of the wager and its different variations and explains why he prefers to look at the gamble that sets the odds of Christianity of being true at 50%.  We further discuss some of the issues of probability, costs, and benefits associated with the wager, eventually leading Mike into a discussion of how — even if there is not an afterlife to confer immense benefits on an individual — that living as if there were can be beneficial nonetheless.  Various objections to the wager are brought up, including ones from theologians who consider such calculations to be distasteful and by Calvinists who adhere to unconditional election.  Prof. Rota provides his rebuttals to each of these objections.  We finish off with Mike explaining why he thinks the odds of Christianity being true are better than 50/50 and also covering some of the examples of lives well-lived by Christians under extremely difficult circumstances (e.g., Jean Vanier,  Imaculeé Ilibagiza).  Recorded: May 25, 2016.

Visit us on Facebook and Twitter for periodic updates of guests.



Prof. Michael Rota’s bio at St. Thomas University and his personal website.

Taking Pascal’s Wager: Faith, Evidence, and the Abundant Life, by Michael Rota.

The Devlin-Hart Debate, a quick primer.


Michael Licona on the Historiography of the Resurrection.

J. Warner Wallace on Cold-Case Christianity and Christmas.

Larry Witham on the Economics of Religion.

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